What would you do if you found out you had five years to live? Speaking personally, I’d probably embark on a global crime spree, culminating in several high profile assassinations and a drunken marriage proposal to Carla Gugino. This, of course, is one of the many reasons no one will ever make a movie about me. Never mind the fact that I’m reasonably certain I’ll be around in 2012.
Stephen Heywood, on the other hand, has been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The estimated 5-year sentence he is given leads to a series of remarkable decisions made by Stephen and his loved ones as his clock starts ticking relentlessly down. “So Much So Fast” was made over five years, and chronicles the efforts made by the Heywood family to cope with this horrible illness.
ALS is categorized as an “orphan” disease, meaning not enough people contract it to make developing drugs to treat it profitable for pharmaceutical companies. This real life example of the automobile recall scenario Ed Norton described in “Fight Club” is pretty disturbing, but for Stephen’s brother Jamie, it meant he had to take matters into his own hands. He started a foundation to find a cure for the disease, starting with himself, his wife, and one of the brothers’ longtime friends working in the basement, and within a few years took made it a multi-million dollar consortium with several dozen employees.
Stephen, for his part, decides to immediately marry his girlfriend and have a baby. As his body deteriorates, he becomes increasingly unable to play with his son, eventually losing the ability even to pick him up. These scenes are some of the most heartbreaking of the film.
Throughout his ordeal, Stephen maintains his sense of humor and optimism. Not that he has much of a choice, considering he will be forced to use a feeding tube due to the atrophying of his throat muscles and will eventually, if he so chooses, have to be put on a respirator.
“So Much So Fast” offers an unflinching look at the effects of a terminal diagnosis, not just on the victim, but on everyone around him. And while you want it to have a happy ending, the odds seem slim. What’s more, Stephen’s not the only one who will be worse off.